For Cary Sanders, the path to a doctorate in Christian Ministry began in a prison cell.
Arrested 17 times before the age of 17, Sanders spent his adolescent years pursuing a life of crime.
“I was in and out of the Department of Juvenile Justice. Mental Health tried to help me. There were just a lot of people who tried to warn me about the destruction I was headed for,” Sanders said. “I didn’t have any regard for the future.”
Just after his 17th birthday, Sanders committed an armed robbery that landed him in prison. Awaiting his sentencing and pondering the life choices that led him to ruin, he said he decided to open a Bible.
“I began flipping through it and there was an article titled: ‘How to Have a New Life in Christ.’ It was a presentation of the gospel -— how God had created a good world, the disease of sin had entered in and humanity rebelled against God, and now there was a curse upon the whole world. Nothing could fix it except a healthy relationship with God. That made sense to me. I had felt my own powerlessness to make any lasting change in my life.”
Sentenced to 45 years with the opportunity to be released early, Sanders began living out his faith behind bars.
“I was fortunate enough to have members from local churches come in and disciple me. They helped me learn what it means to follow Christ and how to put sin to death,” he said.
Sanders spent nine years in prison before being released. Making the most of his second chance in life, he started school at North Greenville University in January of 2014. Sanders received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Christian Studies from NGU in 2017 and returned in 2019 to pursue a Doctor of Ministry degree.
“What our society most desperately needs is individuals who are passionately pursuing Jesus with excellence,” he said. “North Greenville is a place that provides this, and that is rare in today’s world. It’s a place where men and women are being equipped to be transformational difference makers for our Lord.”
Sanders now serves as the executive director of Jumpstart, a nonprofit ministry dedicated to providing opportunities for incarcerated men and women and those re-entering society in a Christian environment.
“We have active programming in 17 different prisons,” Sanders said. “This is not jailhouse religion. It’s rigorous intensive discipleship. Nationally, the rate of recidivism is 70 percent. Jumpstart, over the past 10 years, has a success rate of 96 percent. The gospel works.”
— Billy Cannada is marketing communications manager for North Greenville University.